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Columbus columnist: Blue Jackets are “the biggest mess in the NHL”

Jan 26, 2012, 10:46 AM EDT

Rick Nash

Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch has posted a lengthy, insightful and scathing first-half review of the Blue Jackets.

Titled “It’s Never Been Worse,” Portzline conducts a thorough investigation of the franchise from top to bottom, trying to identify areas for improvement that would change the culture of the struggling club. That he chose now to write this piece speaks volumes — the Blue Jackets are in their 11th year of existence, but have just 13 wins in 49 games and in real danger of breaking the franchise-low for wins in a season (22, in 2001-02…the current BJs are on pace for 21.)

This despite the fact they’re spending over $62 million in player salaries, 1oth-most in the NHL.

More, from the Dispatch:

What’s more unappealing in sports than a club with a bloated payroll and the worst record in the league? What’s more disheartening for fans than a club that opened the season with such high expectations only to fizzle quickly into the worst season in franchise history? What could be more maddening for onlookers than to see a collection of players perform so far below their abilities, their track records?

It’s painfully obvious that something significant must be done to salvage what has become the biggest mess in the NHL. Minor moves won’t cut it. It can’t be player in, player out. Can’t be just pending UFA for future draft pick. It’s not about having enough speed, strength, skill or smarts … it’s about culture. The numbers don’t add up because the math is all wrong.

Portzline then goes on to address various areas of concern:

— The club has a lack of winning pedigree throughout, from players to the front office. Only Sammy Pahlsson and Brett Lebda have won Stanley Cups while “under [GM Scott] Howson, a significant level of expertise has been chased from the building. [Ken] Hitchcock, Don Boyd and Bob Strumm were all gone from the organization in the span of months.”

— The lack of moves given this year’s disastrous results. The only trades/player acquisitions were for Lebda, Nikita Nikitin, Mark Letestu and Colton Gillies. The club also took a long time before turfing head coach Scott Arniel.

— Mike Priest, the club president, has little hockey background (he was owner JP McConnell’s financial guy) and a less-than-stellar reputation throughout the league.

Under Priest, the front office has lost its share of employees who were a credit to the organization, well-respected in the community. Priest dabbles in hockey decisions, too, which many find problematic. A handful of coaches who have interviewed for jobs with the Blue Jackets often refer to Priest’s ‘PI” test — which measures a candidates ability to fit in an office environment — with either incredulous humor (what the?) or a resentful scorn.

Coaching in the NHL is not an office job, they note.

For more, check out the full piece at Dispatch’s Puck Rakers blog.

  1. east96st - Jan 26, 2012 at 11:10 AM

    Priest, is without a doubt, problem #1. Get rid of him, remove him from ALL hockey decisions, make Craig Patrick President, and you’ve taken the most important step towards making the franchise viable and competitive. Any changes that do NOT involve getting rid of Priest are merely window dressing. He is the cancer that is eating away at the CBJ organization. I find the comment about Priest’s “PI” test hysterical. Apparently, the only way to “fit in” in that particular office environment is if you have complete and utter disregard for the ticket holders. Having lived in several cities, I have been a season ticket holder for a number of teams. All of them successful. All of them had won championships. NONE of them EVER treated me as poorly and with such contempt as the Blue Jackets. Honestly, they act like they are doing you a favor by taking your money and allowing you “the honor” of seeing their games. No question why this team is failing so badly. The atmosphere is absolutely poisonous and the team is run by the grossly incompetent.

  2. elvispocomo - Jan 26, 2012 at 12:36 PM

    Phoenix (and New Jersey) may have a claim to that title considering their finances. At least Columbus doesn’t have to throw money at it to fix their situation.

    • east96st - Jan 26, 2012 at 12:50 PM

      elvis – Actually, Columbus signed over their share of the revenues from the new casino to bailout the Jackets. So, yeah, they DID have to throw money at them to fix their situation. And, at least, the Phoenix and Jersey fans have seen their teams play some competitive hockey.

      • goalie007 - Jan 26, 2012 at 9:49 PM

        It’s complicated, but the way I understand it is that Columbus and Franklin County are using projected casino revenues to purchase Nationwide Arena from Nationwide Insurance in order to get a lease agreement that is more favorable to the team, while Nationwide Insurance, in turn, is investing $52 million in the team and assuming 31% ownership of the team. This deal will keep the Blue Jackets in Columbus through at least 2039.

  3. obamablowz - Jan 26, 2012 at 2:24 PM

    Once again Blue Jackets thanks for Voracek, Couturier (future star), and dumping 5.2 million until 2022. Now if we could get a goaltender we’d be in good shape. Enjoy your 35-40 goals per regular season and non factor in the playoffs if you get there and his late night drinking binges.

    • east96st - Jan 26, 2012 at 2:29 PM

      It’s amazing to me, no matter what the sport, Philly fans are always the biggest douchebags. Is there an asshole gene that is dominant in Philly and is passed from generation to generation, or is it an environmental thing where you’re born normal and living in Philly turns you into an asshole?

  4. sheckyrimshot - Jan 26, 2012 at 2:53 PM

    it’s a product of the environment. after years of growing up and being pigeon-holed as “asshole philly fan” you learn to accept it, then embrace it. so yeah get over your bewilderment of assholes in philly. we get it.

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